The Consequences of Divorce for Stay-At-Home Parents

Being able to stay at home to raise children is a blessing. During a marriage, some couples may be financially stable enough to afford to make this decision. After a divorce, however, life will change for stay-at-home parents. The harsh reality is that while it may have once been feasible for one parent to stay at home, divorce will usually take away this option.

If you are planning to get divorced and either your or your spouse is a stay-at-home parent, you should be aware that the divorce will affect your daily life in many ways. Before making the decision to end a marriage, stay-at-home parents should learn more about what they can expect both during and after their divorce case.

You May Be Forced To Work

Many stay-at-home parents, especially mothers, are often surprised when a judge orders them to work full-time after a divorce. The vast majority of judges will expect both parents to work to support their children, even if they have been out of the workforce for years. Judges will order parents to find work no matter how many children they have or how young their children are.

This attitude reflects a shifting trend in American values. Society has moved away from expecting women to stay home with the children, and today over three-quarters of women work outside the home. Most judges no long consider it acceptable for women to rely on an ex-husband for support long after a divorce, and as a result, most women will be ordered to find full-time employment even if they have never had to support themselves before.

This requirement won’t take effect immediately though. While the divorce is pending, a judge will usually order the spouse who is currently working to continue maintaining the family’s financial status quo. This may mean that the stay-at-home spouse will receive some financial assistance until the divorce is final, so that the children’s lives are not disrupted all at once. It will also give the stay-at-home spouse time to find a new job. In some situations, a judge may order financial support for the stay-at-home spouse to continue for some time after the divorce is finalized, especially if that spouse has limited resources, lacks education, or has no work experience.

There are very few situations where both parents would not be expected to contribute financially to the cost of raising children. For example, the couple may have a severely disabled child who needs constant care. Or, the stay-at-home spouse may be legally disabled and cannot be forced to seek full-time employment. However, that parent should be receiving disability benefits and may still be required to use that income to pay child support or otherwise financially support his or her children.

Don’t Rely on Support Payments

It is important for stay-at-home spouses to realize that financial support payments from their ex should not make up the bulk of their income. Child support is not meant to provide for the stay-at-home spouse’s every need, and alimony or spousal support payments are usually ordered on a temporary or limited basis.

As a result, stay-at-home spouses should begin looking for employment as soon as possible once a divorce is imminent. Since a family’s financial status quo should stay the same during the divorce for the sake of the children, the stay-at-home spouse can use this opportunity to begin looking for work. If spousal support is ordered to continue after the divorce, the former stay-at-home parent can also use that opportunity to take classes or finish a degree which can help him or her join the workforce successfully.

Dealing With Divorce

Whether or not spousal support is ordered after a divorce depends on many factors. When one spouse is at a severe financial or professional disadvantage, the other will often be ordered to pay support until that spouse can get back on his or her feet. However, it is important to remember that most financial support will eventually end, and each parent will be responsible for providing for themselves and their children. By taking the time to prepare for this eventuality, stay-at-home spouses can transition into financial independence.

At the Law Office of Jonathan M. Galler, P.A., we understand that dealing with these types of changes can feel overwhelming or even impossible. With thorough planning and the help of a skilled Florida family law attorney, divorcing parents can make a plan for the future that meets the needs of the entire family. For more information on all of our family law services, including child custody issues, legal separations, divorce, and mediation, contact our office today by calling 561.881.6912. 

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